The Holy Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, is coming to a close. When the Year was first announced it seemed like a pretty innocuous topic.
As Pope Francis understood and we have learned, however, “mercy” itself is a very powerful concept. Our liturgy teaches us that God shows might through mercy. Mercy evidences strength and has its own logic. As James (2:13) states very succinctly, “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Where mercy is involved, all the rules change. In the early days of the Cristo Rey model, someone described “a Cristo Rey moment” as “flying in the face of logic.” A Cristo Rey school was by design, for example, only open to those who could not afford it. So those of us familiar with Cristo Rey are used to working with a different logic.
In April 2016, at the Cristo Rey Network Annual Meeting in Denver, Jose Alberto Mesa, S.J., assistant to the Jesuit General in Rome for secondary and pre-secondary education worldwide, lead a dynamic workshop for 200 school leaders and Religious Sponsors and Endorsers. He challenged us to be open to change and to recognize opportunities to extend mercy, compassion, and support to our students as early as the admissions process and to sustain this promise through four years of high school and beyond graduation as alumni matriculate to and through college. The Pope himself challenged those who work in education to reflect on how we can do the different works of mercy through that apostolate. In doing so the Pope invited the whole Cristo Rey family to rethink how we educate, to ask ourselves if we can educate more as Jesus did. He called upon the entire Cristo Rey community to identify areas in our lives and in our institutions where mercy can be more present and where we can all exercise greater compassion.
As Pope Francis said in declaring this Holy Year, “The mercy of God is able to transform hearts,” an ideal to consider as we all seek to “transform urban America one student at a time.”